Chrysler Corp.'s stunning success with its Plymouth/Dodge Neon sedan has led to the introduction of a 1995 Neon Sport Coupe.While the coupe is based on Chrysler's Neon four-door, sharing the same basic dimensions of wheelbase and overall length, the car is more than a clone of the sedan minus two rear doors.The coupe has a decided sports flair to it, and is designed to appeal to the driver enthusiast.To whet this enthusiasm, there is a new 2.0-liter (122-cubic inch) double overhead cam four-cylinder engine, with the twin-cam motor sporting four valves per cylinder. It is by far the best engine package, as the dual cammer puts out 18 more horsepower than Neon's 2.0-liter single-overhead-cam engine."We haven't ordered any Sport Coupes with single-overhead cams," said Joe Etchison, general manager of Palmer Dodge West. "The coupe is an enthusiast's type of car, and that calls for a performance-type engine."Enhancing the product mix by including two doors instead of four is a body that has a 10 percent increase in bending stiffness, and 2 percent more torsional rigidity. When mated to a five-speed manual transmission and performance suspension system, you have quite a potent vehicle.The coupe by virtue of these design parameters lends itself to a get-up-and-go atmosphere."The four-door (with a single-overhead-cam engine) is oriented toward family use," Etchison said. "Owners are more interested in economy than in performance, although it'll step right out and go."The heart of the Sport Coupe is an engine which is Chrysler's basic l22-cubic inch 4, but is equipped with an aluminum head and two camshafts. The standard sedan engine's single cam also sports four valves per cylinder. But valve action is via rocker arms instead of direct-valve activation, and this accounts for the dual cams higher engine speed and higher horsepower.The twin cam is rated at 150-horsepower at 6,800 rpm, the single cam at 132-horsepower at 6,000 rpm.At 2.0-liters, the twin-cam and single-cam engines are the smallest ever built by Chrysler, with the dual-cam version having the highest specific power output -- 75 brake horsepower per liter - of any naturally aspirated (non-turbocharged) motor in the corporation's history.It revs right now, and has a 5.6 percent gain over the single cam when going 0-60 mph.To take full advantage of this twin-cam motor, Chrysler is offering a performance five-speed manual gearbox that differs from Neon's standard five-speed in three ways. Fifth gear and the final-drive gear ratios in the performance transmission are numerically higher (the higher the number the lower the ratio) than in the standard version. And there is a reverse "brake" for easier shifting.Performance fifth gear ratio is 0.81 to the standard's 0.72. Performance final drive is 3.94 to the standard's 3.55.This final drive ratio benefits all five speeds, providing quicker acceleration and sometimes negating the need to downshift to make a q uick pass in traffic.The Sports Coupe has a little more taunt suspension than the standard Neon sedan, courtesy of performance-tuned strut calibrations and larger front/rear roll bars. The suspension calibration also incorporates unique front struts that include a camber-adjustment feature.To keep everything going in the right direction the steering ratio is 16-to-1 for quicker wheel response, and the power system incorporates a unique valve control. To increase feel to the wheel, additional driver effort is required before the power assist begins.This coupe will turn better than 87 mph in the quarter mile and has an estimated top speed of about 120 mph.Style-wise, the Sport Coupe has a "power-bulge" bubble on the hood bearing 16V DOHC graphics. There is a deck-lid spoiler at the rear, and tinted, fixed quarter windows that are mounted flush with the body.Instrumentation is somewhat standard for a sports-type coupe, consisting of a speedometer, tachometer, an d temperatu re and fuel gauges. They're laid out well, right in front of the driver. But with a manual five-speed and dual cams I'd still like to have an oil-pressure gauge.Chrysler calls the Sport Coupe a five-passenger car. But I'd say four would be more appropriate, unless you're carrying children in the back seat.The Neon Sport Coupe is a niche automobile, as compared to the sedan. But it's a car with personality, and one in which drivers can play showroom stock racer everyday at an affordable price. 1995 Plymouth/Dodge Neon Base price: $12,405Type: Front engine, front-wheel drive, five-passenger, sports coupeEngine: 2.0-liters, DOHC in-line 4, 16 valves, fuel-injected, 150-horsepower, 131 foot-pounds of torqueTransmission: Five-speed manualMileage: 29 mpg city/38 mpg highwayAcceleration: 0-60 mph in 8.5 secondsWheelbase: 104.0 inchesLength: 171.8 inchesWidth: 67.2 inchesHeight: 52.8 inchesCurb weight: 2,490 poundsOptions: Air conditioning, AM/FM stereo ETR, three-speed automatic transmission, power locks, rear defogger, power mirrors, cruise control, tilt wheel, light group, roof rack, power trunk release, wheel trim, child safety seat
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